Attitudes Matter: The Effects of Attitudinal Barriers

Throughout society, there are daily behaviors, perceptions, judgments, stereotypes, and assumptions that discriminate against individuals with disabilities. These attitudinal barriers often emerge from a lack of understanding and having empathy while interacting or communicating with people with disabilities. Too often, conclusions and opinions are made without any facts or evidence to support that conclusion or opinion.


10 Common Attitudinal Barriers Include:


  1. Thinking a disability defines a person

  2. Because a person has a disability, he or she is not independent

  3. That people with disabilities don’t have the same likes and desires as others who do not have disabilities

  4. A person with a disability is inferior in their thinking.

  5. Assuming that someone with a speech impairment does not know how to properly communicate.

  6. It is always harder for people with disabilities to pick up life skills (cooking, driving, reading).

  7. You are doing a “good deed” by befriending people with disabilities.

  8. Everything positive a person with a disability accomplishes should be celebrated as a significant achievement.

  9. People with disabilities get sicker easier than individuals without disabilities.

  10. People with disabilities like being pitied and felt sorry for.



Although I only mentioned 10, there are many more attitudinal barriers individuals with disabilities must frequently navigate. As a society, we have to collectively and actively participate in removing these barriers.

There are various ways to change or remove attitudinal barriers that we can implement in our daily lives. One way is to AVOID making assumptions about a person’s abilities or capabilities. I often interact with people with disabilities who express their frustration with others assuming what they can or cannot do. We have to stop making assumptions. Sit down and communicate with the person and build a relationship, instead of automatically thinking you know what that person can do or what that person is going through.




Another exercise we can practice to help remove attitudinal barriers is to FOCUS on the similarities we have with each other instead of the differences. More often than not, we have more in common with others than we do differences. Focusing on our commonalities can help with our overall comfort level during our interactions with individuals with disabilities, ultimately ending with us being less judgmental and allowing us to actually get to know the person.

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